22 Types of Wasps in Texas (with Pictures)


Wasps in Texas

Neither a bee nor an ant, wasps are small, winged insects that have quite a diverse family of about 30,000 recognized species. These little insects play an important role in pollination and are both prey as well as predator. The list of wasp species that can be found in Texas stretches long. Today, we are going to talk about 22 wasp species that you can commonly find in the state.

 

American Pelecinid Wasp (Pelecinus polyturator)

American Pelecinid Wasp

Genus – Pelecinus
Family – Pelecinidae
Body length – up to 7 centimeters

When you spot the American Pelecinid Wasps for the first time, you might find them to be otherworldly, for they are quite different from the other wasp species. These wasps display a strong sexual dimorphism.

Although both sexes have the same glossy black body, the males have a short abdomen, bulging legs, and a swollen tip that they use to sting.

On the other hand, the females have a long, thin abdomen, longer legs, and a long tail that appears like a stinger but isn’t.

Instead, they use the tail to deposit the eggs on the grubs underground so that their larvae could feed on them from inside out when they hatch. Although the females cannot sting, they try to scare away any potential threat by poking them with their tails.

 

Blue-Winged Wasp (Scolia dubia)

Blue-Winged Wasp

Genus – Scolia
Family – Scoliidae
Body length – 2-2.5 centimeters

Despite their name, the wings of the Blue-winged Wasps are not the most prominent feature of their body. They might not even appear blue from a distance but are bluish-black.

The best way to recognize these wasps is by their orange abdomen and two bright yellow spots present close to their waist.

Although they are considered to be a non-aggressive species of wasp, the females tend to get more defensive and can even sting when mishandled. The Blue-winged Wasps are considered to be the friend of gardeners since they protect their flowers from the destructive insects, Japanese Beetles.

 

Braconid Wasp (Atanycolus spp.)

Genus – Atanycolus
Family – Braconidae
Body length – 0.16-0.27 inches

Braconid Wasps are teensy wasps that can easily be confused with flies, except for their bright red color and long tail. Both sexes appear alike except for the tail-like structure possessed only by females.

However, it is not actually a tail but instead a long ovipositor, a tube through which they deposit their eggs safely in the trunks of trees. They have a blackhead, black antennae and legs, long black wings, and a red body.

 

Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus)

Cicada Killer

Genus – Sphecius
Family – Crabronidae
Body length – 1.5-5 centimeters

The Cicada Killers are a large, predatory species of wasps. These wasps are reputed for hunting and killing the cicadas in mid-flight, which is why they have been named so. They have strong legs and a quick stinger, which they use to immobilize the cicadas.

However, the cicadas are consumed by the larvae, and the adults mainly drink nectar from the flowering plants. They have a mostly black body with occasional bands of yellow, a pair of brownish, plastic-like wings, three pairs of orange legs, and a stinger at the end of their body.

 

Common Thread-Waisted Wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata)

Common Thread-Waisted Wasp

Genus – Eremnophila
Family – Sphecidae
Body length – 2-2.2 centimeters

Just as their name suggests, the Common Thread-waisted Wasps can be recognized by their characteristic narrow waist. Their entire body is shiny black in color, with pale whitish or yellow spots on the sides of their torso (thorax).

These wasps are often seen in pairs. Out of both sexes, the female Common Thread-waisted Wasps do all the heavy-lifting work, such as digging the burrow, seeking out caterpillars (food for the larvae), etc.

Although they have a powerful stinger, they are too busy living their lives to bother with such things.

 

European Hornet (Vespa crabro)

European Hornet

Genus – Vespa
Family – Vespidae
Body length – 2.5-3.5 centimeters

The European Hornets are the largest species of eusocial wasps that are endemic to Europe. These multi-colored wasps first arrived in North America in the 1800s, although they are now found in abundance in the eastern parts of the United States.

They have a black and red head and thorax, with a black abdomen covered in yellow stripes. They are large enough to appear intimidating and have a varied diet that includes both insects as well as tree sap.

 

Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex incheumoneus)

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Genus – Sphex
Family – Sphecidae
Body length – 1.5-2.3 centimeters

The Great Golden Digger Wasps have a bright orange and black body with large, oval eyes, a pair of black antennae that curves downwards, and three pairs of orange legs.

The coloration of these wasps is found to be alarming, even threatening, by many. But, on the contrary, they are mild in nature and like to keep to themselves.

Nectar from brightly-colored flowers is their favorite food; you will often find them buzzing around flowering plants. The female Great Golden Digger Wasps are known to be harassed by birds such as tanagers and robins while they are in flight with their prey, which is not seen with any other digger wasp species.

 

Red Paper Wasp (Polistes spp.)

Red Paper Wasp

Genus – Polistes
Family – Vespidae
Body length – 1.2-1.5 centimters

With an orange-reddish body and contrasting black wings, the Red Paper Wasps are medium-to-large wasps. Although these wasps are not instinctively aggressive, they can sting if they feel threatened or handled.

They use their saliva and whatever vegetation they can find around to build their nests, which are grey in color. Although the adults drink nectar, they hunt actively for caterpillars to feed their larvae.

 

Cuckoo Wasp (Chrysis spp.)

Cuckoo Wasp

Genus – Chrysis
Family – Chysisididae
Body length – 0.5-0.8 centimeters

Like the Cuckoo birds, the Cuckoos wasps tend to lay their eggs in the nest of other bees. When the eggs hatch, their larvae eat the eggs of the bees and any food stored in the nest. In this manner, these wasps are parasitic to a large number of wasps and bee species.

Although the Cuckoo Wasps are extremely small in size, they can easily be recognized even from a fair distance due to their glossy body. They have black eyes, wings, and legs, while the rest of their body is either emerald, gold, or garnet in color. The adults have a defensive mechanism of curling up when they feel threatened and cannot escape.

 

Four-toothed Mason Wasp (Monobia quadridens)

Four-toothed Mason Wasp

Genus – Monobia
Family – Vespidae
Body length – 1.5-2.1 centimeters

Similar to the Bald-faced Hornets in appearance, the Four-toothed Mason Wasps have a shiny, hairless body with white shoulder marks. Their wings, legs, and antennae are black in color as well. However, unlike the latter, the Four-toothed Mason Wasps are solitary in nature. Their wings are metallic and appear bluish or purplish when they catch the light.

 

Horntail Wasp (Uroserus spp.)

Horntail Wasp

Genus – Urocerus
Family – Ciricidae
Body length – 1.8-4 centimeters

The Horntail Wasps might look threatening because of their tail that appears to be a potential stinging threat. However, it is generally believed that these wasps are harmless. They have two pairs of wings, both colored similarly in a faded shade of orange.

The first set of wings are much larger in comparison to the other one. They have thin, wiry antennae, short black legs attached to a black body. While the males possess only one stinger at the base of their body, the females are said to have two.

However, the second, thicker stinger is actually an ovipositor through which they lay eggs. The females inject their eggs in the trunk of the trees so that they can remain safe from potential predators.

 

Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons)

Eastern Yellowjacket

Genus – Vespula
Family – Vespidae
Body length – 0.8-1.8 centimeters

The Eastern YellowjacketsOpens in a new tab. are one of the predatory wasps that nest in the ground. Their burrow on the ground looks very much like the den of any small rodent. However, if you step on them, they will get defensive and sting you repeatedly with their venomous stingers.

Unlike the honeybees, these wasps do not lose their stinger and die. Another interesting (and potentially dangerous) fact about these wasps is that they are capable of releasing an alarm pheromone in the air, asking more of their kind to join them. Thus, engaging with them can be a bad idea.

The population of the Eastern Yellowjackets can be divided into three groups: males, workers, and the queen. All of them have slight differences in their appearances. The males have a heavily banded body, while the queens are mostly yellow in color with black spots on the sides of their abdomen and a prominent diamond shape visible on their waist.

 

Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvaniacus)

Great Black Wasp

Genus – Sphex
Family – Sphecidae
Body length – 2-3.5 centimeters

Called “great” because of their considerably large size among the wasps, the Great Black Wasps are members of the digger wasp family that are known to burrow in the soil. The body of these wasps is entirely steely blue or black in color, including their wings.

These wasps are raised to consume the Grasshoppers and Crickets, and not what the other wasp species feed on. However, during summers, they visit flowering plants, helping in pollination.

The Great Black Wasps are not bothersome and won’t disturb humans on their own. However, if you try to touch or handle them, you can get stung. Therefore, it’s best to watch them from a safe distance.

 

European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula)

European Paper Wasp

Genus – Polistes
Family – Vespidae
Body length – 1.8-2.2 centimeters

The European Paper Wasps are a large species of wasp endemic to Europe. These wasps were brought to North America inadvertently in the 1980s and have remained here ever since.

They are similar to the Yellowjackets in appearance and can often be confused for the others. However, they have a compact body and abdomen, orange antennae, and are non-aggressive in nature.

 

Potter Wasp (Eumenes fraternus)

Potter Wasp

Genus – Eumenes
Family – Vespidae
Body length – 0.9-1.9 centimeters

The Potter Wasps are medium-sized wasps that heavily populate North America. These wasps have a black body with a single yellow band painted on their thorax, right above the waist.

They also have yellow spots around the yellow band occasionally. They have black wings and antennae, with yellow feet and black legs. They hunt caterpillars, which are the main diet of these wasps. They are not aggressive in nature and tend to ignore the human company.

 

Ringed Paper Wasp (Polistes annularis)

Ringed Paper Wasp

Genus – Polistes
Family – Vespidae
Body length – 1.7-2.4 centimeters

The Ringed Paper Wasps are highly social wasps that tend to make their nest close to each other and live in large colonies.

The upper body of these wasps is dark burgundy in color, with an entirely black abdomen except for a thin yellow ring wrapped around it near the waist.

They have three pairs of bright yellow legs, and a pair of black antennae tipped with orange. They build their nests in diverse locations, such as shrubs, sheds, barns, etc.

 

Hyperparasitic Wasp (Taeniogonalos gundlachii)

Hyperparasitic Wasp

Genus – Taeniogonalos
Family – Trigonalidae
Body length – 0.6-0.8 centimeters

The Hyperparasitic Wasps are named so because they have hosted that, although insects are parasitic in nature themselves. These often include the Parasitoids. They lay their eggs on caterpillars so that when their eggs hatch into larvae, they feed on the insides of the caterpillars.

Their species are often used to keep the growing population of unwanted parasitic wasps in check. They are much smaller in size than the other wasp species, reaching not even a centimeter in length. Their body is black in color, with yellow markings and bands scattered on it.

 

Squarehead Wasp (Ectmenius spp.)

Squarehead Wasp

Genus – Ectemnius
Family – Crabrodinae
Body length – 0.8-1 centimeter

Although these wasps are called “squarehead”, the head of the Squarehead Wasps can be best described as a rounded cube. These wasps have a minuscule body that is colored in the classic yellow and black. They have a yellow band running along their body at regular intervals, with yellow antennae.

Their thighs and feet are black, with the legs in between being yellow. When not in flight, their dark wings are tucked on their lower back. The Squarehead Wasps rarely inhabit areas where humans dwell. You can find them near the woodlands.

 

Tarantula Hawk Wasp (Pepsis species)

Tarantula Hawk Wasp

Genus – Pepsis
Family – Pompilidae
Body length – 4.2-4.3 centimeters

Although the Tarantula Hawks appear to be black from a distance, upon a closer look, these wasps have a bluish to purplish iridescence on their body. In contrast with their dark body, they have bright orange wings with a blackish view on its edge.

They display very subtle sexual dimorphism, with the males having seven segments in their abdomen and straight antennae. Whereas the abdomen of the females has only six segments, and they possess curved antennae.

The Tarantula Hawks receive their name due to their wicked treatment of the tarantulas. These wasps have a powerful sting, which has a particularly paralyzing effect on the tarantulas. Once they sting the tarantula, they carry it back to their burrow, where they bury it alive between their eggs so that the new-born larvae can feed on them.

 

Weevil Wasp (Cerceris spp.)

Weevil Wasp

Genus – Cerceris
Family – Crabronidae
Body length – 0.9-1.3 centimeters

The Weevil Wasps have been named so because they are reputed hunters of all kinds of beetles, particularly the weevils.

These wasps have a small, dark body with about 4-5 yellow rings drawn on bulging segments of their lower body, and two circular spots place parallelly with a curve just below on their back, which appears like a smiley. They have three pairs of orangish legs and translucent wings tinged with orange.

The female Weevil Wasps create cell-like structures in their nest, where they keep the paralyzed beetles they hunt so that the larvae from their eggs can feed on them.

 

Leucospid Wasp (Leucospis spp.)

Leucospid Wasp

Genus – Leucospis
Family – Leucospidae
Body length – 1.3-1.7 centimeters

The Leucospid Wasps can easily be distinguished from the other wasp species due to their well-rounded abdomen, unlike the pointed one found in most wasps. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t possess stingers.

The females also have an ovipositorOpens in a new tab. that curves downwards instead of standing straight. Their body is generally hairless, although it is covered with their wings when they’re not in flight. These wasps are parasitic in nature, in the sense that they lay their eggs in the pre-existing nests of other wasps and bees.

 

 Scoliid Wasp (Campsomeris plumipes fossulana)

Scoliid Wasp

Genus – Camposmeris
Family – Scoliidae
Body length – 1.5-2.5 centimeters

The Scoliid Wasps are medium-sized wasps that are prepared to go to certain lengths to keep their larvae fed. The female Scoliid Wasps hunt for the tunnels built by the Beetle grubs, sting the grubs to paralyze them, and then lay their eggs near their rear end.

They have a black abdomen covered with rugged, yellow bands. Although both sexes have similar markings, they look different otherwise. The males have a slender abdomen while the females are slightly plump.

 

Types of Wasps in Texas (bottom line)

There are a large number of wasp species that are found in Texas. While some of them are endemic to North America, others have been introduced from another continent. These insects mostly hunt caterpillars or beetle grubs for their larvae and feed on nectar themselves. The next time you spot one in your garden, you’ll know exactly which one it is.